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Patty Fantasia

Film Courage Interactives Bring Independent Filmmakers Together

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Patty Fantasia



Film Courage Interactives Bring Independent Filmmakers Together in L.A.

The last Monday night of the month at the Downtown Independent Theatre in Los Angeles a very special event has been taking place known as The Film Courage Interactive. Created by filmmakers and L.A. Talk Radio Co-hosts David Branin and Karen Worden, the gatherings have been developing a steady and loyal following of independent artists and fans alike. The evenings offer a comfortable venue where shorts and features are screened and attendees can watch great films, participate in Q&As with producers, directors and actors and network with one another in a supportive environment.




Film Courage Interactive Hosts David Branin and Karen Worden


On August 30th I had the pleasure of being in L.A. at the Interactive. On the bill that night were entertaining shorts including “Therapy Girls” and the world premiere of Director Tod Lancaster’s disturbing thriller “Shooting April”. Prior to the screening I had the chance to speak with other independent filmmakers like Dennis Peters, whom I’ve known online for several months. Hailing from New Haven, Connecticut, Dennis has been based in L.A. since 1979. Currently working on a feature narrative called “I’m not Adam”, which he also wrote, Dennis said that the psychological thriller is being shot in the downtown area at night and should wrap in October. “It’s been a lot of fun,” he said explaining how he went into production without a script. Although Peters doesn’t consider himself a screenwriter, he explained that he wrote the one for this project out of necessity. Peters, who started out as a DP, enjoys coming to the monthly events which he credits with helping to build a supportive group for independent artists. “People have changed. They share now. There’s a community in the real sense,” he said.

Ralph Greco, a TV producer currently crossing over into the world of film agrees. He believes that in order to keep growing “people just have to keep making good movies,” in the independent film world. Actors Andrea Shreeman from “Therapy Girls”, Gregor Collins, who stars in “Night Before the Wedding” and Christian LeBlanc from the “Young and the Restless” were also socializing among the crowd. This was the eighth event Film Courage sponsored showcasing the work of their peers and spotlighting films not found in the mainstream. After everyone left the lobby and settled into the auditorium Karen and David welcomed the audience and started the program with some fun and games. People had the chance to win prizes including tickets to upcoming industry events, such as the Bicycle Film Festival. Afterwards announcements were made about more screenings and future Interactives when films like the “Mother of Invention” will be screened.



Filmmaker Dennis Peters at the Film Courage Interactive


The comedic shorts screened first followed by the brutal thriller “Shooting April”. Director Tod Lancaster and cast members including Matthew Prater and Rachel Seiferth and Eric Fagundes took the stage for an intriguing Q&A when the film ended. The father of a teenage girl, Lancaster got the idea of the film because of his own fears regarding potential dangers facing his own child. An unscripted movie, Tod did work from a treatment, but noted that three quarters of the film was improve on the part of his actors. Shot guerilla style at most locations with a 100k budget, they just rolled camera.

Rachel, who has done more work in the theatre said “It was actually really fun to do something that was improv. You know the character and background and let it just flow from there.” Joe commented, “Weasel was a character I had to get lost in,”

Playing Truman Anderson, Matthew Prater faced the additional challenge of filming stunts that included being lit on fire in one scene, although he did have a stunt double for the more dangerous part and also for another sequence involving a car. For that they used the cowboy switch, a pop up move that was done a lot in the old John Wayne films.

Prior to this film, Lancaster was perhaps best known for co-producing “Overnight” in 2003. Although “Shooting April” is not a true story, it was inspired by real events including an assault that happened in Orange County. As a Director Tod believes that the audition process is critical to his job or as he put it, 80% is casting and 20% is staying out of the way. This process was also difficult for Matt, who literally spent hours screaming at his potential co-stars and calling them names during his audition. Rachel was the sixth girl in the callback session and the one who withstood the emotional tirade best. Tod said, “She didn’t cry.” However, by the same token, you could tell what was going on inside her he told us.



The cast and crew of "Shooting April" being interviewed


During shooting, Tod used mostly available retractable lighting stating that “realism is one of those things I value in a film.” Now that “Shooting April” has had this theatrical premiere, he plans to screen it in other venues and review the distribution offers coming in. A part of the profits from the film’s screenings are also being donated to, a national teen dating abuse hotline.

Film Courage Interactives are a welcome haven offering entertainment and networking opportunities for filmmakers and movie lovers alike, so if you happen to be in the L.A. area on the last Monday of the month, pay a visit to the Downtown Independent. I know I will when I’m in town again.


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